Note that this position paper can be read and commented upon at OLY 2012's new website/blog: http://www.oly2012.org
OLY 2012 is a volunteer group of citizens committed to the revitalization of Olympia’s downtown core, as well as to the tenets of the state’s Growth Management Act, which, among other things, call for housing density in our urban centers and along transportation corridors. As such, OLY 2012 has been a vocal and ardent supporter of the City of Olympia’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan Amendment that allowed for taller buildings on what is known as the Olympia Isthmus. Our September 2008 position paper on the City of Olympia’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment can be read here.
Naturally, we are strongly opposed to Substitute Senate Bill 5800* , which seeks to override the Olympia City Council’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan Amendment decision with the singular and common purpose of preserving a narrow view corridor within a panorama from the Capitol Campus that has long been interrupted and blighted by an economically ailing downtown Olympia. SSB 5800 would limit building heights on the Olympia Isthmus, and designate virtually the entire isthmus as a “shoreline of statewide significance” thereby greatly regulating and limiting almost all forms of development.
My testimony at the City Council meeting was polarizing – exactly what I have written out against publicly here in the blogosphere. Clearly, and as the Olympian noted in their coverage of the hearing, people at the hearing in favor of the rezone did not like what I had to say. A large number of people confronted me in the lobby to express that they took offense to my testimony, and I tried my best to listen to them. I also pledged to post my testimony in a public place so that it could be scrutinized in an open and more democratizing way. So, I am posting this not to direct more attention to my argument, but to clarify it, and ultimately, to try to reconcile it with the community.
I had no intention of offending anyone and I am sorry to those whom I did offend. Perception and reality can be different things, particularly at a public hearing, and what came out of my mouth wasn’t necessarily what was heard by the attendees of the hearing. Put another way, language is one thing, the interpretation of rhetoric by an impassioned audience is another. Perhaps Thad Curtz was right when he questioned whether my “rhetorical enthusiasm” was getting the better of me. You live and learn; I’ll chalk this one up to experience.
Thad Curtz’s letter to the editor of the Olympian, published in this morning’s paper was composed of errant facts, unfair qualifications, and a misleading conclusion.
After citing quantitative facts about turnout at the planning commission hearing being numerically in favor of opposing the rezone, Curtz concluded that “people don't want the Olympia City Council to give Triway a big tax break.”
First, an incorrect fact: this rezone decision has nothing to do with giving tax breaks. This abatement is not unique to this project or rezone. All downtown multi-family housing is getting a tax break: low income housing has a permanent tax abatement; low cost housing is enjoying a 12-year abatement; and market-rate housing qualifies for an 8-year abatement. The State Legislature adopted this policy enabling cities to use abatements in recognition of the high cost of housing development.
The city council passed this abatement years ago, and any downtown housing project proposed would qualify for it. So, unless the goal is to impede any and all housing in the urban core in order to keep these abatements from serving their purpose (including low income housing), this is not a valid reason to reject this rezone. And it has nothing to do with the rezone decision faced by the council.
I just received this from the OLY 2012 Newsletter...
Olympians Must Think Hard about What Makes the Best View
By Peter Stroble
Global Warming. Geo-Political Conflict. Epidemic Disease. The Rising Cost of Living. Famine. Obesity. Classism. Racism. Political Polarization. Social Entrenchment.
The root cause of virtually every problem in our world today is Suburbia - enabled by our 20th century car culture. It's easy to simply blame it all on George W., kick back, and wait for Obama to make it all better. But until we take responsibility and change how we live at the community level, we shouldn't be pointing our fingers at anyone but ourselves.
Density is the answer. It mitigates the threat of war and global warming by reducing our reliance on the oil-dependent automobile. It lowers our transportation costs, which lowers our overall cost of living. It enables us to eat more healthfully because less sprawl equals more local farmland.
Density also brings communities together and helps address social ills. Suburbia has polarized our society; density will moderate it. In our suburban culture today it's easy for the haves to ignore the have-nots: homelessness isn't a problem to a typical suburbanite – it's merely a once-in-awhile inconvenience. Density offers us the opportunity to change this by bringing us closer to one another.
But density is not as easy as simply building high rises in urban cores. In order to make a community function with density, the built environment must be designed with both humans and the outdoor environment in mind. This is what the term Smart Growth is all about. If we ignore the questions of where and how to accommodate more people living in our urban core, density could actually do more harm than good to our downtown. The activist and renowned urban critic
I'm new in town (9 months), and would love some background info on the Capitol Center Tower. I live near the Capitol, and cannot believe how such an ugly building could have been built right in the middle of one of the most beautiful scenes in North America. How could it be allowed to happen? I'm assuming money, greed, and stupidity is involved, but that thing belongs in the Guinness Book of the World's Ugliest Buildings. If someone could direct me to good resources of information I would be grateful. Also, why is it currently vacant? Has anyone thought about putting a private foundation together to buy the building and tear it down? If someone can also let me know how to sign up for e-mail notification on public meetings related to the "mistake by the lake", I would love to get involved. Dave
From Janine Gates via email:
...I attended the Triway Enterprises "open house" last night at Tumwater Lodge, met Jeannette Hawkins and Mr. Tri Vo, the project developer, the project designer, and others. A Triway-hired limo driver enthusiastically insisted on taking me the short distance from the overflow parking lot up to the lodge. That about says who was really invited to this "open" house. I walked back to my car.
I asked Jeannette who was invited. She said the Chambers, the Olympia Downtown Association, the Westside Business Association, the 2012 group, etc." By only inviting such an elite sliver of the community, an opportunity for real dialogue was missed. I asked when she was going to invite the local environmental community to participate in the discussion and she laughed, saying that she had lots of time, "until September." Mostly likely, she had no intention of reaching out so I asked if she would be interested in coming to a forum that SPEECH would sponsor and she said yes, she would welcome the opportunity. So, SPEECH will be sponsoring a forum, date and time to be announced soon, stay tuned.
Do these people really want to work and play with us? I don't think so. I've lived here 25 years and I still don't personally don't know anyone who could afford to buy one of those condos, which they said would retail for $800,000 - $1 million each. They said there is a pent-up demand for view condos at that price. Build it and they will come seems to be their philosophy. But at what price are we wiling to sell the soul of our community - our views, our way of life, our sense of community spirit?